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George Harrison’s ‘Coronation Street’ home, solo career and tragic death aged 58 as tribute paid to ‘quiet Beatle’

It is regarded as one of the greatest love songs ever written. “Something” with its grace, beautiful melody, and sublime guitar solo is a masterpiece and has been recorded by 150 artists.

That alone deserves recognition. But the writer of the work which received the Ivor Novello Award for “Best Song Musically and Lyrically” of 1969 was also a Beatle. George Harrison is believed to have penned the lyrics for his first wife, Patti Boyd.

The song was said by John Lennon to be the best on the Beatles’ Abbey Road album. Among those who recorded it were Joe Cocker, Shirely Bassey, and Frank Sinatra.

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Along with “Here Comes The Sun” it was a moment Harrison emerged from the shadow of Lennon and Paul McCartney as a songwriter. His ability was confirmed when he released the epic triple solo album in 1970, All Things Must Pass—which included “My Sweet Lord,” “If Not For You” and “What Is Life.”

Today, tribute was paid to the Fab Four’s “quiet one” – a music icon and humanitarian – with the unveiling of a blue plaque at his birthplace – 12 Arnold Grove, Wavertree in Liverpool. It was being unveiled by Harrison’s widow, Olivia, who he married in 1978. She described the ceremony as “a source of family pride.”

Harrison was born on February 25th 1943 at the two-up/two-down terraced house near Wavertree’s High Street and lived there until he was nearly seven years old. George later wrote of the house: “To look at, it is just like Coronation Street. No garden, door straight on to the street…it was OK that house, very pleasant being little and it was always sunny in summer.”

The youngest of four children, George grew up part of a tight-knit family. Music was an early interest of his, encouraged by his parents, although George did not actively start learning guitar until the age of 12 or 13. The family had strong connections to Wavertree. George’s parents were born and grew up in the area and his maternal grandparents lived in the adjacent road, Albert Grove.

George’s family left Arnold Grove in early 1950, when he was nearly seven, as they had finally reached the top of the housing list they’d been on for nearly 20 years.

The youngest member of the Beatles, Harrison was just 17 when the band embarked on their now-famous trip to Hamburg in 1960 and just 27 when they broke up in 1970. Known as the ‘quiet Beatle’, he was their lead guitarist and a talented songwriter.

Harrison met and befriended the Indian composer Ravi Shankar in 1965 and following the Beatles’ trip to India in 1966, he became greatly influenced by eastern music and philosophy. Harrison was taught sitar by Shankar from 1965 to 1968.

These new interests and skills were reflected in various songs he wrote for the Beatles, including ‘Within You Without You’ (1967) and ‘Only a Northern Song’ (1969), and ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ (1968).

After the Beatles split up, Harrison went on to achieve great success as a solo artist. As co-founder of Handmade Films, George was also involved in culture-defining films such as Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979), Time Bandits (1981) and Mona Lisa (1986).

Harrison was the first Beatle to score a ‘number one’ in the UK music charts after the band split up. He also arranged the ‘Concert for Bangladesh’ in 1971, which was a music industry pre-cursor to the renowned ‘Live Aid’ campaign. In 1988 he formed the ‘supergroup’ the Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, who all appeared under pseudonyms on the band’s albums. He died in 2001 aged 58 after a battle with cancer.

A sketch of 12 Arnold Grove by Roy Williams (GH Estate Ltd) and George Harrison.

To coincide with the blue plaque being unveiled for Harrison, today (May 24), Historic England is opening up an eight week nomination period for their new national blue plaque scheme, which aims to highlight the stories of inspirational people from all walks of life.

Until 19 July people across the North West are invited to submit their nominations for the person they would most like to see recognized with a prestigious Historic England blue plaque.

Many areas have plaques schemes run by civic societies, local government bodies, historical groups and voluntary associations, though not all do. The national program aims to complement these existing local schemes.

To be eligible, the person being nominated must:

  1. Have died at least 20 years ago

  2. Have made a significant contribution to human well-being or happiness and/or who have made an exceptional impact in their field, community or on society at large

  3. Have at least one building associated with them that survives from the time of their occupancy and where a plaque would be clearly visible from a public highway.

As the scheme develops, nominations will also be open to groups of people (duos, groups, societies, organizations) and for the commemoration of significant events.

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, aid: “Places across England have born witness to extraordinary people who contribute to human well-being and happiness. The actual places where this history happens are special, but not always well known.

“From today, for 8 weeks, we are inviting people across the North West to submit their own nominations for the people they would most like to see recognized in this way. Blue plaques capture the lasting connection between people and places and have real power to inspire local pride now and for generations to come.”

Arts, Heritage and Libraries Minister, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, said: “Through the national expansion of the blue plaques scheme we have already celebrated a trailblazing matron in Ilkley, an influential artist in Stoke-on-Trent, and now one of our finest musical icons in Liverpool. People from all over the country have gone on to change the world – and I’m delighted that they can now be commemorated, and continue to inspire people, in the places they’re from.”

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